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Sleep Science: Tips for Improving Your Sleep Quality



Sleep is essential for our health, but many struggle to get high-quality sleep due to stress, environmental factors, and technology. Interestingly, while many people might spend hours indulging in online activities, such as playing online casino games and searching for the best deals, they often overlook the importance of winding down properly before bed.

For great offers like 100 free spins and no deposit deals, visit This article provides practical tips based on sleep science for a refreshing morning.

Understanding Sleep Cycles

Sleep is not a uniform state but a dynamic process that cycles through different stages throughout the night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep affects cognitive function, mood, and physical well-being. Understanding these stages helps to appreciate how sleep quality affects overall health and well-being.

Non-REM Sleep

Non-Rem (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is a crucial part of our sleep cycle, consisting of three distinct stages. Each stage plays a unique role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. Here’s a closer look at each stage:

  • Stage 1: This is the lightest stage of sleep, often referred to as drowsiness or the transition between wakefulness and sleep. During this stage, you drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Your muscle activity slows down, and occasional muscle twitching might occur.
  • Stage 2: In this stage, the body prepares for deep sleep. Heart rate slows, and body temperature drops. This stage accounts for about 50% of the sleep cycle and is crucial for consolidating memories and processing information.
  • Stage 3: Known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep, this stage is essential for restorative processes such as tissue repair and growth, muscle and bone strengthening, and immune system boosting. During this stage, it’s harder to be awakened; if you are, you may feel disoriented for a few minutes.

REM Sleep

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, which characterises this stage of sleep. During REM sleep, your brain activity increases, resembling wakefulness, which is why this stage is associated with vivid dreams. REM sleep is essential for cognitive functions like memory, learning, and mood regulation. Muscle activity is suppressed to prevent acting out dreams, which provides a protective function.

Factors Affecting Sleep Quality

Several factors impact sleep quality, including environment, lifestyle, and health conditions. Research from Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine highlights these factors’ significant role in sleep health.

  1. Environment: Elements like noise, light, and temperature can interfere with your ability to smoothly cycle through the sleep stages. For instance, a noisy or brightly lit room can prevent you from entering deep sleep stages.
  2. Lifestyle: Habits like irregular sleep schedules, lack of physical activity, and poor diet can negatively impact sleep cycles. High caffeine or alcohol intake can disrupt the normal progression through sleep stages.
  3. Health conditions: Conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome can fragment sleep, preventing the deep and restorative stages.

Understanding these sleep cycles and the factors that affect them is crucial for identifying ways to improve sleep quality and overall health. By ensuring that you cycle through these stages effectively each night, you can wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality

Improving sleep quality often requires lifestyle changes and adjustments to your sleep environment. Here are some scientifically-backed tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.

Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment

A comfortable sleep environment can significantly improve sleep quality. First, keep the room cool. The ideal temperature for sleep is around 65°F (18°C). A cooler room helps to lower your body temperature, which signals your body that it’s time to sleep. Next, minimise noise, as it can be a significant sleep disruptor. Consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to mask any disruptive sounds.

White noise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer by providing a consistent sound background. Additionally, block out light, as exposure at night can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Use blackout curtains to keep your room dark, or wear an eye mask to block unwanted light.

Establishing a Bedtime Routine

Consistency is key to regulating your body’s internal clock. Maintain a consistent schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm, making falling asleep and waking up naturally easier. Engage in relaxing activities to develop a pre-sleep routine that signals to your body that it’s time to wind down. This could include reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation exercises like deep breathing or meditation.

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are major sleep disruptors, but several techniques can help manage these feelings. Practice relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing exercises to help calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Keeping a sleep diary can also be beneficial. By tracking your sleep patterns and identifying factors that affect your sleep, you can manage sources of stress that might be impacting your sleep quality.

Diet and Exercise

What you eat and how you move during the day can significantly impact your sleep quality. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Avoid consuming these substances at least four to six hours before bedtime. Don’t eat large meals before bed, as eating a heavy meal can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep.

Aim to finish eating at least two to three hours before going to bed. Regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep. However, try not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this can have the opposite effect by increasing your energy levels and making it harder to fall asleep.

Here’s a table summarising key tips for improving sleep quality:

Tips for Better SleepDescription
Keep the Room CoolThe ideal sleep temperature is around 65°F (18°C)
Minimise NoiseUse earplugs or white noise machines
Block Out LightUse blackout curtains or eye masks
Follow a Consistent ScheduleGo to bed and wake up at the same time every day
Limit Screen ExposureTurn off screens at least an hour before bedtime
Be Mindful of DietAvoid caffeine, nicotine, and heavy meals before bed
Regular ExerciseHelps you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep
Manage Stress and AnxietyMeditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help calm your mind.


Improving your sleep quality is essential for your overall well-being. You can significantly enhance your sleep by understanding sleep science and making small changes, such as creating a sleep-friendly environment, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, managing stress, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Prioritising sleep isn’t just about feeling rested; it’s about improving your health, mood, and daily performance. Implement these tips to invest in better sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to tackle each day with renewed energy.



Expanding the Definition of Care for HIV Long-Term Survivors

Honoring Resilience of the Community, Raising Awareness of Challenges Ahead



Jeff Berry didn’t choose a career in HIV advocacy, the career chose him. After being diagnosed with HIV in 1989, Berry stumbled upon Positively Aware, a magazine providing critical information on care and treatment options, during a support group meeting. Leafing through its pages, he realized how important it was to have a place to get information specifically tailored for survivors. Before long, he’d launch a career at the magazine for nearly 30 years, a position he held until a few years ago when he left to lead The Reunion Project, a national alliance of HIV long-term survivors that he co-founded in 2015 and is focused on addressing the unique care and treatment needs facing the growing community. 

“We launched The Reunion Project when a lot of people were starting to gather and talk about the distinct challenges long-term survivors face,” Berry explained. “It hadn’t really been discussed previously. Many were still dealing with the trauma and loss of the epidemic, but enough time had passed where we could revisit and focus on the specific needs of those of us aging with HIV.”

As we mark Long Term Survivors Day on June 5, honoring the resilience of this community and raising awareness about the challenges they face becomes even more crucial. More than half of the adults living with HIV in the U.S. are over 50 years old, and by 2030, that number is projected to reach nearly 70% – a statistic unimaginable 30 years ago. 

Despite this incredible progress, the increase has brought in its own set of challenges when it comes to supporting an aging population with distinct care and treatment needs. A study of individuals with HIV in South Africa showed that individuals living with HIV are more likely to develop age-related conditions like cancer or heart disease. Additionally, they often face social isolation, insufficient support and a service delivery system ill-equipped to meet their needs, making them less likely to access vital social services.

Recognizing these gaps, Gilead Sciences launched HIV Age Positively® in 2018, a grant program aimed at supporting community-based organizations focused on improving the quality of life and health for older Americans aging with HIV. Over the past five years, the initiative has awarded more than $35.8 million in grants to support 42 organizations that are working to address stigma, loneliness and better coordination of care for impacted individuals.

One such grantee is The Reunion Project, which organizes nationwide events to help long-term survivors navigate their unique challenges. The Reunion Project’s events often feature a day devoted to managing the unique social issues facing those aging with HIV. The first day of programming focuses on navigating employment opportunities, as many long-term survivors are returning to a workforce they’d never expected to live long enough to enter. The second day becomes more interactive, with community members providing feedback, participating in breakout groups and collaborating on priority-setting for their region.

Most importantly, The Reunion Project partners with local organizations to ensure programming is tailored to each city’s unique needs. “We don’t just want to do an event and then leave,” says Berry. “We make an effort to partner with the city. We really want to spark an ongoing network of long-term survivors beyond just the two days.”

With Gilead’s support, The Reunion Project has been able to expand their programming from one or two events per year to three, provide local organizations with funding to create their own long-term survivor events, and expand their services to include language interpretation for those not fluent in English, ensuring no one is left behind.

One particularly poignant moment for Berry occurred at an event last year, where a man who only spoke Spanish was able to share his story through interpreters, detailing his journey overcoming seemingly insurmountable stigma and barriers from care providers and his church.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house – it was an incredibly powerful moment,” said Berry. “None of that would have been possible if we hadn’t had the support of Gilead to provide interpretation services.” 

Despite the challenges facing this population, Berry remains optimistic about the future. “When you’re talking about HIV and aging, it seems like there is a huge laundry list of things that can go wrong,” he admits. “What gives me hope is my memory of the era of the epidemic when there was seemingly no hope, and we as a community came together and changed things. We demanded to be heard, and as a result, we revolutionized how drugs were developed and how clinical trials were held. I think we can do the same thing now with our model of aging.”

(HIV AGE POSITIVELY, GILEAD, the GILEAD Logo, are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. © 2024 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. This story is part of a paid collaboration between Gilead Sciences and the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade.)

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Recovery Reads: Reading in on your journey toward sobriety



summer reading, gay news, Washington Blade

The path away from substance abuse is laden with hazards, a minefield where the misstep of a moment can detonate a crisis after years of hard-won progress. 

For those soldiering through the haze alone, quite frequently the case of isolated LGBTQ people who have suffered years of isolating trauma, several important important book bear unflinching witness and offer purposeful guidance — helping illuminate a way out of addiction’s oblivion. These books are particularly important to people who are not yet ready to ask for him, giving the reader private guidance on their own terms, at their own speed. These books mind the reader that they have not journeyed too far away from their authentic selves, and that their surrender to alcohol, drugs, and compulsive behaviors can be overcome. 

These books range from Dustin Dunbar’s searing memoir “You’re Doing Great! And Other Lies Alcohol Told Me” (Central Recovery Press) to total abstinence and moderation guides like “Soberish” (HarperOne) by Kayla Lyons.

Avoiding the severe strictures of total abstinence, Lyons opens with the inclusive query “Are you ready to take your power back from alcohol?” Whether answering with a resounding “yes” to getting booze-free or a tentative “maybe” to finding moderation, her book provides an arsenal of evidence-based tools — from cold exposure therapy to sound healing and beyond — to chart a compassionate course for creating a moderate, self-determined drinking practice or kicking the habit entirely. By grounding readers in the psychology of substance use, walking them through backsliding risks, and encouraging them to rebuild an alcohol-free identity, Lyons attempts to launch a “sober-ish” movement tailored to the modern age.

For those ambivalent about quitting entirely or simply seeking to reset an unhealthy relationship with substances, Kayla Lyons offers a millennial-focused, non-judgmental guidebook in “Soberish” (HarperOne). 

Avoiding the severe strictures of total abstinence, Lyons opens with the inclusive query “Are you ready to take your power back from alcohol?” Whether answering with a resounding “yes” to getting booze-free or a tentative “maybe” to finding moderation, her book provides an arsenal of evidence-based tools – from cold exposure therapy to sound healing and beyond – to chart a compassionate course for creating a moderate, self-determined drinking practice or kicking the habit entirely. By grounding readers in the psychology of substance use, walking them through backsliding risks, and encouraging them to rebuild an alcohol-free identity, Lyons attempts to launch a “sober-ish” movement tailored to the modern age.

LGBTQ readers struggling with the triple-threat of meth, sex and identity problems will find candid perspective and support from David Fawcett’s “Lust, Men, and Meth” (Hazelden). With insights blended from addiction and sex therapy, the book explores how methamphetamine can hijack the brain’s dopamine systems governing mood, sex drive and compulsive behaviors. Through explicit case studies, Fawcett examines the vulnerabilities of some gay men who turn to meth to soothe feelings of disconnection, unattractiveness or being left out of the community – only to then confront serious issues from HIV/AIDS to the erosion of their sexual selves. 

But the book moves beyond profiling the problem to providing solutions, equipping readers (and their helping professionals) with therapeutic tools and strategies for managing the recovery process. With increased distance from the drug, readers delve through a reckoning with powerful emotions like shame that meth once allowed them to bury, and ultimately rebuilding their relationships, identities and capacity for fulfilling sexual expression.

The harrowing “My Suicide Race” (Zinnia Books) by Mark Turnipseed lays bare the often-unseen connections between addiction, self-harm and sexuality trauma. At the tender age of six, Turnipseed internalized the soul-crushing message from his religious community that being gay made him destined for eternal damnation. His confusion and self-hatred set him on a devastating trajectory of alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution and suicide attempts as he tried to become the straight boy he thought he was supposed to be.

Turnipseed spares no detail in this honest debut memoir, taking readers inside the tormented mind of an addict and trauma survivor in full denial, upending the lives of everyone who loved him. Only after surviving numerous relapses did he finally find a surprising key to saving himself – extreme physical challenges like training for a triathlon provided an avenue to rebuild self-acceptance and authenticity. While heartbreaking in its candor, Turnipseed’s book offers hope that even those who struggle for years can overcome the addictions so often brought on by shame and self-loathing. 

For loved one’s desperate to intervene and lacking tools beyond tough love, Brad Lamm’s “How to Help the One You Love” (Central Recovery Press) equips readers with concrete, myth-busting steps to pull someone back from the brink of self-destructive behaviors, be they alcohol, gambling, drugs or otherwise. 

Bucking the “let them hit bottom” approach of the ages, Lamm objects.

Opening with a stinging wake-up call – “Is your husband drinking himself to death?” – Lamm insists that worried spouses, parents and friends can actually wield tremendous power to change people through urgent action, countering the abstinent approach of passively watching and waiting for the addict to hit rock bottom. 

Dividing his book into sections like “Understand” and “Engage,” Lamm provides a roadmap for initiating productive confrontations, avoiding enabling behaviors, and operating through a framework of love and accountability rather than shame and punishment. 

For those unwilling to endure abuse or watch their loved one spiral indefinitely, Lamm’s guide promises a possible path forward from desperation.

Though the path away from addiction’s torment is strewn with obstacles, these authors inscribe stepstones toward the light — reminders that even those battered by years of struggle and self-loathing can find rebirth. Their words hold open the gates of ​​recovery for all willing to undertake the journey, bright beacons cutting through the haze and reaffirming that redemption awaits for any who reclaim their authenticity. With rawness, wisdom, and compassion, they extend a hopeful hand to those wandering the swamps of alcoholism, substance abuse, toxic behaviors, and who wish to find their way home to their true selves once more.

Breathe Life Healing Center offers provides evidence-based clinical care in a supportive environment for transformation and change.

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Just Keep Swimming’: Ingleside Senior Swimmers Share Tips on Healthy Aging through Community and Daily Exercise

A range of community building and wellness opportunities abound at Ingleside, which has been recognized nationally for its inclusivity. 



Photo Courtesy Ingleside Marketing

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average human needs about 150 minutes of exercise per week to remain healthy as they age, but 80% of Americans aren’t checking that box. 

And while there may be a plethora of reasons why “getting older” could impose on your ability to exercise as frequently as you should, three residents of Ingleside at King Farm – all 95 years young – are living proof that it is possible, and that there is no excuse. 

The three neighbors, Sy Herman, Peggy Adams, and Bob Verkouteren, are using their daily commitment to swim together to encourage and inspire each other’s healthy living choices and well-being. After retiring to the Rockville, Maryland senior living community, Ingleside at King Farm, just outside of Washington, DC, the aquateers became friends through their shared love of aquatic fitness, realizing they also shared the same diligence in being at the pool each day before sunrise, meeting as early as 6:30 a.m. to swim laps. 

“One morning I’m in the water and I find these two rascals here, and now we’re here together every day,” said Peggy. The friendship among the three seniors grew close over the past year ever since the trio made a deal that they would start each day at the pool before breakfast.

Science has proven that positive social relationships play a role in better health and life expectancy.  Unlike forty percent of older adults in the U.S. who report chronic loneliness, Peggy, Sy and Bob, are a prime example of the positive impact meaningful relationships can have on maintaining a personal commitment to physical fitness and daily exercise.

Each morning, the seniors take turns using the fast lane at The Herman Aquatic Center at Ingleside at King Farm, challenging their endurance while also making use of water weights and other strengthening tools. The aquatic trio bonded over a shared commitment to physical exercise, community-building, and philanthropic work – all factors that health studies have shown contribute to longevity and increased quality of life. 

“I took up swimming because it was a sport I could enjoy daily,” shared Sy. “I couldn’t play tennis and couldn’t play golf. So, I took up swimming, which has added years to our lives and life to our years!” 

Fitness is an essential part of the Ingleside culture of living a healthy and engaged lifestyle. Ingleside’s state-of-the-art fitness facilities include a fitness center with robust programming and access to a physical trainer to tailor and support strength and cardiovascular training. 

Not only does Sy use the various fitness amenities at Ingleside, but he’s also provided financial support and resources back into the senior living community to help better its aquatic facilities. Upon moving to Ingleside, Sy and his wife Sheila donated a gift to the Westminster Ingleside Foundation, with an amount specifically designated for the Aquatic Center. “It’s wonderful being here,” Sy said. “There are so many opportunities to be involved. I really love this place.”

A range of community building and wellness opportunities abound at Ingleside, which has been recognized nationally for its inclusivity. 

Ingleside at King Farm, and it’s sister communities, Ingleside at Rock Creek, and Westminster at Lake Ridge were officially recognized when they received the 2023 SAGECare platinum-level lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cultural competency certification. SAGECare is acknowledged as the foremost comprehensive, national cultural competency training program dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBT adults. Additionally, Ingleside participates in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and SAGE’s Long-Term Care Equality Index (LEI), earning the designation as an “LGBTQ+ Long-Term Care Equality High Performer.”

“Ingleside has always been, and will continue to be committed to fostering a culture of health and inclusion,” said Christine L. Podles, MA, HSE, LNHA, Chief Operating Officer of Ingleside. “We recognize and celebrate each person’s individual uniqueness and strive to help them live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. It is a core value that we continue to ensure is ingrained into the fabric of the Ingleside family.”

Fitness helps lengthen lives. According to a study in Journal of Aging Research, those who exercise regularly—even for as little as three hours a week—can live up to almost 7 years longer than those who aren’t as physically active. The three swimming seniors made a pact that they would live long, healthy lives, making it to their 100th birthdays together. 

“We will all be turning 100 years old within four months of each other, and I’m already sending out verbal ‘save the dates,’” said Peggy. The aquateer is already planning the party for the trio. “Mark your calendars for November 2027 – everyone is invited!” 

The aquateers plan to have their celebration at no place other than The Herman Aquatic Center. Sy shared, “We’re going to have a Century Club ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by music, dancing, and a great meal for the entire community.” 

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